Sintashta culture
PeriodLate Middle Bronze Age
Dates2200–1900 BCE
Type siteSintashta
Major sitesSintashta
CharacteristicsExtensive copper and bronze metallurgy
Fortified settlements
Elaborate weapon burials
Earliest known chariots
Preceded byCorded Ware culture
Poltavka culture
Abashevo culture
Followed byAndronovo culture, Srubnaya culture, Sauromatians

The Sintashta culture[a] is a Middle Bronze Age archaeological culture of the Southern Urals,[1] dated to the period c. 2200–1900 BCE.[2][3] It is the first phase of the Sintashta–Petrovka complex,[4] c. 2200–1750 BCE. The culture is named after the Sintashta archaeological site, in Chelyabinsk Oblast, Russia, and spreads through Orenburg Oblast, Bashkortostan, and Northern Kazakhstan. The Sintashta culture is thought to represent an eastward migration of peoples from the Corded Ware culture.[5][6][7][8] It is widely regarded as the origin of the Indo-Iranian languages (Indo-Iranic languages[9][10]),[11][12][13] whose speakers originally referred to themselves as the Arya.[14][15] The earliest known chariots have been found in Sintashta burials, and the culture is considered a strong candidate for the origin of the technology, which spread throughout the Old World and played an important role in ancient warfare.[16][17][18][19] Sintashta settlements are also remarkable for the intensity of copper mining and bronze metallurgy carried out there, which is unusual for a steppe culture.[20] Among the main features of the Sintashta culture are high levels of militarism and extensive fortified settlements, of which 23 are known.[21]


According to Allentoft et al. (2015), the Sintashta culture probably derived at least partially from the Corded Ware culture

Because of the difficulty of identifying the remains of Sintashta sites beneath those of later settlements, the culture was only distinguished in the 1990s from the Andronovo culture.[22] It was then recognised as a distinct entity, forming part of the "Andronovo horizon". Koryakova (1998) concluded from their archaeological findings that the Sintashta culture originated from the interaction of the two precursors Poltavka culture and Abashevo culture. Allentoft et al. (2015) concluded from their genetic results that the Sintashta culture should have emerged from an eastward migration of peoples from the Corded Ware culture.[23] In addition, Narasimshan et al. (2019) cautiously cite that "morphological data has been interpreted as suggesting that both Fedorovka and Alakul’ skeletons are similar to Sintashta groups, which in turn may reflect admixture of Neolithic forest HGs and steppe pastoralists, descendants of the Catacomb and Poltavka cultures".[24]

Sintashta emerged during a period of climatic change that saw the already arid Kazakh steppe region become even colder and drier. The marshy lowlands around the Ural and upper Tobol rivers, previously favoured as winter refuges, became increasingly important for survival.[citation needed] Under these pressures both Poltavka and Abashevo herders settled permanently in river valley strongholds, eschewing more defensible hill-top locations.[25]

Its immediate predecessor in the Ural-Tobol steppe was the Poltavka culture, an offshoot of the cattle-herding Yamnaya horizon that moved east into the region between 2800 and 2600 BCE. Several Sintashta towns were built over older Poltavka settlements or close to Poltavka cemeteries, and Poltavka motifs are common on Sintashta pottery.[26]

Sintashta material culture also shows the influence of the late Abashevo culture, derived from the Fatyanovo–Balanovo culture, a collection of Corded Ware settlements in the forest steppe zone north of the Sintashta region that were also predominantly pastoralist.[26]


Radiocarbon dating indicates that the Sintashta culture dates to between c. 2200 and 1750 BCE,[27][2][28] roughly contemporary with the associated Abashevo and Petrovka cultures.[29][30][31] Some authors date the Petrovka culture slightly later, from c. 1900 BCE.[30][32][33]

In Cis-Urals, burial sites Berezovaya and Tanabergen II showed Sintashta culture established there c. 2290–1750 BCE (68.2% probability),[34][35] and the earliest values of this culture, in Trans-Urals, at the burial sites Sintashta II and Kamenny Ambar-5 (Kurgan 2) are c. 2200–2000 BCE.[3]

Chariots appear in southern Trans-Urals region in middle and late phases of the culture, c. 2050-1750 BC.[36]

Blöcher et al. (2023) consider Sintashta-Petrovka period came to an end in Trans-Urals c. 1900–1800 BCE.[37]


Aerial view of Arkaim

Sintashta settlements are estimated to have a population of between 200 and 700 individuals[38] with economies that "heavily exploited domesticated cattle, sheep, and goats alongside horses with occasional hunting of wild fauna".[39]

Linguistic identity

Main articles: Proto-Indo-Iranic and Indo-Iranic peoples

See also: Indo-Iranic languages

Chariot model, Arkaim museum

Anthony (2007) assumes that probably the people of the Sintashta culture spoke "Common-Indo-Iranian". This identification is based primarily on similarities between sections of the Rig Veda, a religious text which includes ancient Indo-Iranian hymns recorded in Vedic Sanskrit, and the funerary rituals of the Sintashta culture as revealed by archaeology.[12] Some cultural similarities with Sintashta have also been found to be common with the Nordic Bronze Age of Scandinavia.[40]

There is linguistic evidence of interaction between Finno-Ugric and Indo-Iranian languages, showing influences from the Indo-Iranians into the Finno-Ugric culture.[41][42]

From the Sintashta culture the Indo-Iranian followed the migrations of the Indo-Iranians to Anatolia, the Iranian plateau and the Indian subcontintinent.[43][44] From the 9th century BCE onward, Iranian languages also migrated westward with the Scythians back to the Pontic steppe where the proto-Indo-Europeans came from.[44]


Arkaim and Sintashta settlement ground plans

The preceding Abashevo culture was already marked by endemic intertribal warfare;[45] intensified by ecological stress and competition for resources in the Sintashta period. This drove the construction of fortifications on an unprecedented scale and innovations in military technique such as the invention of the war chariot. Increased competition between tribal groups may also explain the extravagant sacrifices seen in Sintashta burials, as rivals sought to outdo one another in acts of conspicuous consumption analogous to the North American potlatch tradition.[25]

Sintashta artefact types such as spearheads, trilobed arrowheads, chisels, and large shaft-hole axes were taken east.[46] Many Sintashta graves are furnished with weapons, although the composite bow associated later with chariotry does not appear. Higher-status grave goods include chariots, as well as axes, mace-heads, spearheads, and cheek-pieces. Sintashta sites have produced finds of horn and bone, interpreted as furniture (grips, arrow rests, bow ends, string loops) of bows; there is no indication that the bending parts of these bows included anything other than wood.[47] Arrowheads are also found, made of stone or bone rather than metal. These arrows are short, 50–70 cm long, and the bows themselves may have been correspondingly short.[47]

Sintashta culture, and the chariot, are also strongly associated with the ancestors of modern domestic horses, the DOM2 population. DOM2 horses originated from the Western Eurasia steppes, especially the lower Volga-Don, but not in Anatolia, during the late fourth and early third millennia BCE. Their genes may show selection for easier domestication and stronger backs.[48]

Metal production

External videos
video icon The Sintashta culture - earliest chariots, fortified settlements and bronze metallurgy. Ivan Semyan

The Sintashta economy came to revolve around copper metallurgy. Copper ores from nearby mines (such as Vorovskaya Yama) were taken to Sintashta settlements to be processed into copper and arsenical bronze. This occurred on an industrial scale: all the excavated buildings at the Sintashta sites of Sintashta, Arkaim and Ust'e contained the remains of smelting ovens and slag.[25] Around 10% of graves, mostly adult male, contained artifacts related to bronze metallurgy (molds, ceramic nozzles, ore and slag remains, metal bars and drops). However, these metal-production related grave goods rarely co-occur with higher-status grave goods. This likely means that those who engaged in metal production were not at the top of the social-hierarchy, even though being buried at a cemetery evidences some sort of higher status.[49]

Much of Sintashta metal was destined for export to the cities of the Bactria–Margiana Archaeological Complex (BMAC) in Central Asia. The metal trade between Sintashta and the BMAC for the first time connected the steppe region to the ancient urban civilisations of the Near East: the empires and city-states of modern Iran and Mesopotamia provided a large market for metals. These trade routes later became the vehicle through which horses, chariots and ultimately Indo-Iranian-speaking people entered the Near East from the steppe.[50][51]



See also: Corded Ware culture § Genetics, Fatyanovo–Balanovo culture § Genetics, Andronovo culture § Genetics, and Srubnaya culture § Genetics

Early Indo-European migrations from the Pontic steppes spread Yamnaya Steppe pastoralist ancestry and Indo-European languages across large parts of Eurasia.[53][54]
Admixture proportions of Sintashta populations. They combined Eastern Hunter Gatherer ( EHG), Caucasian Hunter-Gatherer ( CHG), Anatolian Neolithic () and Western Hunter Gatherer ( WHG) ancestry.[55]

Allentoft et al. 2015 analyzed the remains of four individuals ascribed to the Sintastha culture. One male carried Y-haplogroup R1a and mt-J1c1b1a, while the other carried Y-R1a1a1b and mt-J2b1a2a. The two females carried U2e1e and U2e1h respectively.[23][56] The study found a close autosomal genetic relationship between peoples of Corded Ware culture and Sintashta culture, which "suggests similar genetic sources of the two," and may imply that "the Sintashta derives directly from an eastward migration of Corded Ware peoples."[23] Sintashta individuals and Corded Ware individuals both had a relatively higher ancestry proportion derived from the Central Europe, and both differed markedly in such ancestry from the population of the Yamnaya Culture and most individuals of the Poltavka Culture that preceded Sintashta in the same geographic region.[b] Individuals from the Bell Beaker culture, the Únětice culture and contemporary Scandinavian cultures were also found to be closely genetically related to Corded Ware.[57] A particularly high lactose tolerance was found among Corded Ware and the closely related Nordic Bronze Age.[58] In addition, the study found samples from the Sintashta culture to be closely genetically related to the succeeding Andronovo culture.[59]

Sintashta ancestry () in Southern Siberia, c. 800–200 BCE. Saka populations combined West Eurasian Sintashta, BMAC and East Eurasian Baikal EBA ancestry.

Narasimhan et al. 2019 analyzed the remains of several individuals associated with the Sintashta culture. mtDNA was extracted from two females buried at the Petrovka settlement. They were found to be carrying subclades of U2 and U5. The remains of fifty individuals from the fortified Sintastha settlement of Kamennyi Ambar was analyzed. This was the largest sample of ancient DNA ever sampled from a single site. The Y-DNA from thirty males was extracted. Eighteen carried R1a and various subclades of it (particularly subclades of R1a1a1), five carried subclades of R1b (particularly subclades of R1b1a1a), two carried Q1a and a subclade of it, one carried I2a1a1a, and four carried unspecified R1 clades. The majority of mtDNA samples belonged to various subclades of U, while W, J, T, H and K also occurred. A Sintashta male buried at Samara was found to be carrying R1b1a1a2 and J1c1b1a. The authors of the study found the majority of Sintashta people (ca. 80%) to be closely genetically related to the people of the Corded Ware culture, the Srubnaya culture, the Potapovka culture, and the Andronovo culture. These were found to harbor mixed ancestry from the Yamnaya culture and peoples of the Central European Middle Neolithic, like the Globular Amphora culture.[60][61] The remaining sampled Sintashta individuals belonged to various ancestral types different from the majority population, with affinities to earlier populations such as Eneolithic samples collected at Khvalynsk and hunter-gatherers from Tyumen Oblast in western Siberia. This indicates that the Sintashta settlement of Kamennyi Ambar was a cosmopolitan site that united a genetically heterogenous population in a single social group.[62][63]

Estimates based on DATES (Distribution of Ancestry Tracts of Evolutionary Signals) suggest that genetic characteristics typical of the Sintashta culture formed by c. 3200 BCE.[64]

Horse genetics

The dispersal of the DOM2 genetic lineage, believed to be the ancestor of all modern domesticated horses, is linked with the populations which preceded the Sintashta culture and their expansions. A genetic study published in 2021 suggests that these horses were selectively bred for desired traits including docility, stress tolerance, endurance running, and higher weight-carrying thresholds.[65]

See also


  1. ^ /sɪnˈtɑːʃtə/; Russian: Синташтинская культура, romanizedSintashtínskaya kultúra, pronounced [sʲɪntɐʂˈtʲinskəjə kʊlʲˈturə]
  2. ^ Allentoft et al. (2015) analysed ancient DNA recovered from remains at four Sintashta sites. The five samples analysed included the mitochondrial DNA haplogroups U2e, J1, J2 and N1a. The two male individuals both belonged to Y-chromosome haplogroup R1a1.[23]


  1. ^ Lindner 2020, p. 362: "The publication of new radiocarbon data series from selected burial sites in the South-eastern Urals has helped to establish a much more accurate chronology for the late Middle Bronze Age Sintashta-Petrovka complex".
  2. ^ a b Tkachev 2020, p. 31, "The author presents the results of radiocarbon dating of burials from the Sintashta cemetery near Mount Berezovaya (Bulanovo) and Tanabergen II in the steppe Cis-Urals. The series consists of 10 calibrated radiocarbon dates, three of which were obtained using AMS accelerated technology. As a result of the implementation of statistical procedures, a chronological interval for the functioning of necropolises was established within c. 2200–1770 BCE.".
  3. ^ a b Epimakhov, Zazovskaya & Alaeva 2023, p. 6: "The earliest values in the series refer to the Sintashta culture (Sintashta II [the early phase], Kamenny Ambar-5 [Kurgan 2])—2200–2000 calBC".
  4. ^ Lindner 2020, p. 362: "[A] much more accurate chronology for the late Middle Bronze Age Sintashta-Petrovka complex".
  5. ^ Allentoft et al. 2015, "The close affinity we observe between peoples of Corded Ware and Sintashta cultures suggests similar genetic sources of the two. [...] Although we cannot formally test whether the Sintashta derives directly from an eastward migration of Corded Ware peoples or if they share common ancestry with an earlier steppe population, the presence of European Neolithic farmer ancestry in both the Corded Ware and the Sintashta, combined with the absence of Neolithic farmer ancestry in the earlier Yamnaya, would suggest the former being more probable. [...] The enigmatic Sintashta culture near the Urals bears genetic resemblance to Corded Ware and was therefore likely to be an eastward migration into Asia. As this culture spread towards Altai it evolved into the Andronovo culture".
  6. ^ Mathieson 2015, Supplementary material: "Sintashta and Andronovo populations had an affinity to more western populations from central and northern Europe like the Corded Ware and associated cultures. [...] the Srubnaya/Sintashta/Andronovo group resembled Late Neolithic/Bronze Age populations from mainland Europe.".
  7. ^ Chintalapati, Patterson & Moorjani 2022, p. 13: "[T]he CWC expanded to the east to form the archaeological complexes of Sintashta, Srubnaya, Andronovo, and the BA cultures of Kazakhstan.".
  8. ^ Rowlett, Ralph M. "Research Directions in Early Indo-European Archaeology." (1990): 415-418.
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  10. ^ Mallory & Mair 2008, p. 261.
  11. ^ a b Anthony 2007, pp. 408–411
  12. ^ Lubotsky 2023, p. 259, "There is growing consensus among both archaeologists and linguists that the Sintashta–Petrovka culture (2100–1900 BCE) in the Southern Trans-Urals was inhabited by the speakers of Proto-Indo-Iranian".
  13. ^ Schmitt 1987: "The name Aryan is the self designation of the peoples of Ancient India and Ancient Iran who spoke Aryan languages, in contrast to the 'non-Aryan' peoples of those 'Aryan' countries."
  14. ^ Anthony 2007, p. 408.
  15. ^ Chechushkov, I.V.; Epimakhov, A.V. (2018). "Eurasian Steppe Chariots and Social Complexity During the Bronze Age". Journal of World Prehistory. 31 (4): 435–483. doi:10.1007/s10963-018-9124-0. S2CID 254743380.
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  20. ^ Semyan, Ivan, and Spyros Bakas, (2021). "Archaeological Experiment on Reconstruction of the 'Compound' Bow of the Sintashta Bronze Age Culture from the Stepnoe Cemetery", in EXARC Journal Issue 2021/2, Introduction.
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  23. ^ Narasimhan et al. 2019, Supplementary Information, p. 62: "Morphological data has been interpreted as suggesting that both Fedorovka and Alakul' skeletons are similar to Sintashta groups, which in turn may reflect admixture of Neolithic forest HGs and steppe pastoralists, descendants of the Catacomb and Poltavka cultures.".
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  26. ^ Chernykh 2009, p. 136, "[T]he Sintashta culture provides 44 dates, the Abashevo 22 dates, and Petrovka 9, [...] the range of probability (68%), [...] the Abashevo-Sintashta chronological range [is] between the twenty-second and the eighteenth-seventeenth centuries BCE".
  27. ^ Grigoriev 2021, p. 27: "[I]f the entire sampling of Sintashta dates falls within the range of 2200–1650 BC (with the presence of clearly unreliable earlier dates), which, in general, corresponds to the Abashevo dates (Chernykh, 2007, p. 86), when using mainly AMS dates, we get a more correct interval of 2010–1770 BC (Molodin et al., 2014, p. 140)".
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  29. ^ a b Grigoriev 2021.
  30. ^ Degtyareva & Kuzminykh 2022, Abstract: "Recently introduced in the scientific discourse 27 AMS 14C dates (settlement of Stepnoe and burial grounds of Stepnoe 1, 7 and 25) established an earlier interval of the Petrovka series — 2133–1631 BCE and point to the [synchronicity] of the cultures at the northern periphery of the Sintashta area in the local microregion of the Southern Trans-Urals".
  31. ^ Lindner 2020, p. 364, "Indeed, a new radiocarbon series has confirmed the position of the Petrovka stage in the nineteenth to eighteenth centuries BC (Krause et al. 2019). Recent research at the enclosed settlement of Kamennyj Ambar in the Karagajly Ajat River valley (Chelyabinsk Oblast) supports this stratigraphic evidence, based on the existence of different occupation phases....".
  32. ^ Kuzminykh et al. 2023, p. 53: "Tools and weapons made of copper and bronze from the Petrovka Culture of the Northern Kazakhstan of the 19th–18th centuries BC are presented, originating mainly from sites complexes explored in the 70–80s 20th century G.B. Zdanovich and S. I. Zdanovich".
  33. ^ Tkachev 2020, point 28: "[A] graph was constructed with a wide dating range of 2290–1750 BCE [68.2%, 1-sigma], 2480–1430 BCE [95.4%, 2-sigma]. It is noteworthy that the early trail of this interval is formed by dates from the burial ground at Mount Berezovaya and the Tanabergen II burial: 7/23 (Le-8840). The late group is formed by dates from Tanabergen II burials: 7/22, 30, 36 (Le-9675, Le-8841, Le-8842)".
  34. ^ Tkachev 2020, Fig. 5.
  35. ^ Lindner 2020, p. 367.
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Further reading